Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
J.J. Redick plays a solid game, a fluid game, and a game that makes us think we are missing him when he is gone. Those around the league like to say he has a “high basketball IQ.” But does he? It seems that sometimes there are players who can give you positive output in almost every statistical category, but still fail to impact the game the way you want them to.
First we have to define basketball IQ. I hear it a lot when a player makes an unexpectedly good decision, or shows in some way that he schooled himself on his opponent. Generally it means preparedness, or the ability to adapt the rhythm of the game no matter what. Moreover, it means thinking ahead, and being one step ahead of your opponent.
At first glance I would say Redick definitely has a high basketball IQ. But how does this translate to statistics? I break it down into four categories: taking smart shots, making smart passes, playing strong defense, and protecting the ball. Superstar or not, if you can keep those four areas of your game on speed dial, you will do more good than harm for your team.
As for taking smart shots, Redick obviously does not struggle with the temptation to throw up circus shots, or go off shooting fadeaway’s from deep. His shot selection is sound, as evidenced by his .589 True Shooting percentage from this season. In fact, only two Magic players have a better True Shooting percentage than Redick—Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson.
Need a current Eastern Conference Finals contender to compare that to? Kyle Korver currently has a True Shooting percentage of .572, and D-Wade is .581. So yes, Redick shoots for a high percentage, and at 17 percent usage, that is exactly what you need out of him.
Redick’s True Shooting percentage puts him among the leagues top 50 players, so he gets an A in this category.
But what about passing? Smart passing is measured in assist percentage. Redick has an 11.0 assist percentage, just the seventh best in the category for the entire team. That puts him below even the loathed Gilbert Arenas, but Redick is a role player—someone who needs to hit shots when he is open, not make mistakes, and feed the scorers the ball. If his assist numbers are down, doesn’t his value also go down?
Coaches and teammates love it when you can get your star players the rock. Redick comes up short in this category. B- by his standards.
Protecting the ball is a Redick specialty, and probably where he stands out the most. Currently his turnover percentage is 9.5 percent. Only two Magic players with a better percentage is Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson. This should be expected from the Coach K protégé. He is certainly “smart,” in that he does not throw errant passes and lose the ball off his feet. Another expected A performance this year.
Here’s the thing, though, and probably the biggest problem with the Orlando Magic after the 2010-2011 season. Only Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, and Jameer Nelson rank higher in John Hollinger’s Value Added metric. However, that puts Redick at 191 overall in the NBA.
So, sure he’s valuable to the Magic, and you might even argue that he is in the top five “value” players for the Magic. Even if you’re just looking at PER, Redick is in the top seven for the Magic. But if I am Otis Smith I want at least seven guys who are in the top 200 in the league, right?
Said differently, is it not troubling that Redick, for all the things he does right, is still less efficient than 200 guys in the league? What’s more troubling to me is how those around the league see it as “game changing” when he is not in the lineup.
For a guy who is known high IQ guy, I would think he might crack the top 200 in player efficiency. Instead, Redick is a guy who, in my opinion, wears the brand of “smart” and “important to the organization,” but does not necessarily do those “smart” things at an efficient rate, at least by the calculated total value and player efficiency standards.
I’m not ruling out defense here, because I know that Redick has great court vision, and hustles up and down the court with some of the scrappiest guys in the league. So if it is his defense that you are looking for, then by all means, Redick is your guy, and is valuable in that way.
But do not be fooled into thinking that he provides anything extraordinary, or even above average, on the offensive end. He shoots the ball well, and has a terrific turnover ratio, but aside from that, you’re just not getting much.
The key word here is impact. Redick has provided an excellent example of someone who does most things right, gets good grades, and does not give you much room to point fingers, yet the end product is marginalized somehow.
As for being a guy with a high basketball IQ, sure, I’ll buy it. He is a Blue Devil, and learned how to play the game well. I still would like to see his assist percentage go up, and perhaps even his usage rate, but he does not make or break a game for me, and certainly not a series. Still, though, I have no problem seeing him in a Magic jersey.
I have often thought it to be admirable when a coach can put a bench player in a position to be devastating to an opposing team. To define devastating, see James Harden’s performance last night in Dallas. If Stan Van Gundy can further mold Redick into a killer off the bench, we will see his impact go up, and likely his PER and Value Added will follow.